Food and visual culture was the premise of Eunkang Koh’s forum lecture, put on by UNR’s Art History Program, Wednesday, Feb. 19.
Koh is an associate professor of printmaking in the Department of Art at UNR. Koh’s art explores the visual element of food, different cultures and their obsession with documenting food and food consumption.
Community members, other professors and students gathered in the Wells Fargo Auditorium inside of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center to listen to the forum lecture.
Koh’s work originally started with hybrid human and animal heads. This work represents humans as social animals and the absurdity of the human world. After creating these heads for some time, Koh became interested in food and how humans communicate with food as an image.
“Food images reveal not just what we eat…but also communicate where we are,” said Koh. “Our social class, our taste, what gives us pleasure and what we think gives others pleasure.”
Koh brings food to life in drawings and water colors, and paints a variety of foods.
Koh’s images contain dishes ranging from noodles, to fruits to varieties of meat. Koh’s paintings also capture live food. When visiting different countries, Koh started to notice the strong cultural differences.
“There are packed octopus, but they are moving,” said Koh. “They are fresh, otherwise [people] wouldn’t eat it.”
Koh said these images from seafood markets were disturbing, but also fascinating. Even though living food was being sold, the imagery was still appealing to Koh. After this, she went into more research about the appeal of different foods. This research fueled more paintings, furthering Koh’s art about the visual culture of food and the human desire for food.
Later on in the forum, Koh discussed her methods of painting the actual food. Sometimes she takes a picture of the dishes she makes, and other times she sets up a dish, like a stack of donuts, and draws it in real time.
Koh’s inspiration comes from everyday foods. The color and design of the food is very important. Everything on the plate plays a role and items around the plate have a role too.
“It’s not just about the food, it’s the plate they use…and the table,” said Koh.
Food gives individual identity, and with the public’s obsession over food imagery, Koh wanted to immerse herself in this world to understand the complexity of food. It’s not just the fact that people need food to live, but it’s how food makes people feel, how it makes others act and how food gives people a rich culture full of life.
Many audience members were impressed about the food Koh was able to capture. The rawness of her paintings and drawings are captivating, with bright colors, balanced composition and passion.
“I really liked how it wasn’t just her showing her artwork and how she made it,” said Takoda Stewart, a junior art major at UNR. “It was the whole back story that kind of made her artwork come to life.”
Stewart was inspired by this new process of capturing food as a part of the human experience. As an art student, Stewart enjoyed the forum and spoke highly of Koh’s work.
Even though Koh has been drawing and painting food for a while, she still wants to discover new ways to portray food and visual culture.
“As an artist, it’s important to constantly evolve and keep trying,” said Koh.
You can view Koh’s work on her instagram @eunkangkoh or her website http://www.eunkangkoh.net/.
Emilie Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.